TV Review: FX’s The Americans 4×9, “The Day After”

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I remember seeing The Day After in college and it did plenty to bring back memories of my fear of nuclear war. The nightmare sequence in Terminator 2 is partially to blame for that, but the thought of a nuke going off used to terrify me. The Day After’ is an episode of The Americans that features a few key events, but seems to mainly focus on rekindling some thoughts behind why our characters are doing what they are doing. It may mean having to get your hands dirty, when it comes to our spies, but there is a greater good that is the true focus.

It is the overall goal that is part of why this show is so intriguing. Obviously the show has a historical backing that will lead things to a certain end, as far as the grand scheme of things is concerned, but given how loose the show has played with what the true objectives for our KGB operatives are, I remain compelled. It allows for interesting conversation between those in the know and those not and keeps you re-thinking how to interpret certain situations, given the true identities of Philip and Elizabeth.

Following the seven month jump at the end of last week, this week starts to bring the Jennings back into the fold, as Elizabeth moves forward with her plans involving Young Hee and her husband. Meanwhile, Philip is going back and forth between dealing with new information from William and teaching Paige how to drive. As far as things with Philip are concerned, it’s actually a nice breathe of fresh air to see something so human as teaching a daughter how to drive. The stuff with William is a bit heavier, but at least Dylan Baker continues to charm his way through scenes.

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Getting to one of the big moments of this episode, which accounts for the title, ABC broadcasts The Day After, which is watched by every character on this show. While the film may show its age now, it has the desired effect on those watching. The sight of an intense nuclear blast leads to fear and concern scene in the faces of many watching. It is a horrible situation and one that will ideally be avoided (no matter how close things did come at some points, as Oleg alludes to). That is certainly how Philip presents it to Paige, when discussing why it is that he and Elizabeth do what they do.

This manages to tie into what Elizabeth is up to. Her involvement with Young Hee has basically gone nowhere, as far as digging up dirt on her husband. With that in mind, Elizabeth is on hand to watch the kids while Young Hee and her husband are away. Elizabeth then contacts the husband and stages a scenario where they can drink wine alone. She drugs him and stages the scene to make him think he had an affair. It is a setup juxtaposed with Philip teaching Paige to drive, while ‘Major Tom’ blares on the soundtrack, but it certainly isn’t fun for Elizabeth.

None of this stuff is ‘fun’ for the Jennings and I can only wonder what may happen with Pastor Tim and pregnant Alice in the oncoming future, as this episode is sure to remind us that their subplot has not been forgotten. But of course, the show wants the characters to believe they are doing these things for a purpose. Elizabeth and Philip may have concerns at times about what needs to be done and they also have a family to deal with. It makes things complicated and the show is better for it.

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As things wrap up this week, the collateral damage is unfortunate for Elizabeth, as she tanked her relationship with Young Hee. The day after this should indeed present new challenges and they will likely be more complicated than learning how to drive. Coming after the terrific ‘David Copperfield’ episode, ‘The Day After’ is not quite a series high, but it provided some breathing room that also served a purpose.

Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:

  • Martha made it to Moscow, so she’s probably having the time of her life there right now.
  • “You need to blink” – Said to Paige, while she white-knuckles the steering wheel.
  • Tori left Stan. Poor, sad Stan.
  • Oleg and Tatiana are now an item, or at least operating together after hours. The show wants us to be sure we know about them.
  • Henry Watch: Paige beat his high score in their little video game.
  • “I’m gonna miss her” – Sad Elizabeth
  • With David Copperfield, Reagan speeches and now The Day After, I continue to enjoy this show using actual broadcasts as a way to unite the cast and themes of the show.

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Aaron is a movie fanatic. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. There are too many films, TV shows, books, etc. for him to list as favorites, but he can assure that the amount of film knowledge within his noggin is ridiculous, though he is always open to learning more. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else he is up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com, and check out his podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.